Bible Commentaries
Jonah 2

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



The prayer of Jonah, Jonah 1:1-9. He is delivered out of the belly of the fish, Jonah 1:10.

Verse 1

Then, Heb. And, at that time when he lay by the heels a close prisoner in a prison, whence none before or since ever came out alive,

Jonah prayed; sent his petition in all humble and submissive manner unto God: Jonah, wonderfully preserved alive, and in full exercise of his judgment and memory, now betakes himself to prayer, and in this exerciseth his graces; his soul follows hard after God, when he was shut up in this dungeon.

Unto the Lord, that was angry, and now was punishing of Jonah; the Lord, who had committed him to this prison; the almighty God, who can do for Jonah all that he can need or desire.

His God; though Jonah in his froward fit flees from his God, yet now, by the rod taught better, he flees to God, nay, as his God, and remembers his particular interest in God. If Jonah prays by faith grounded on God’s almightiness, now he prays with assurance and hope of faith, looking to God as his God; if the power of the Lord and his mercy keep Jonah alive in the fish’s belly, the same power and mercy can deliver him out of this danger, and the prophet believes he is kept there for an enlargement as miraculous as his confinement was.

Out of the fish’s belly; where he was a prisoner under many miracles, and all concur to awaken him to prayer and faith; he calls it

the belly of hell, or the grave, Jonah 2:2. He employed his time well there.

Verse 2

And said: the former verse was a general account that he prayed, this word in the front of this verse is a transition to a more full account of his prayer, what for substance, and somewhat of the words also.

I cried; not with a loud voice of the tongue, as it was not ordinarily feasible in so close a prison, so nor was it necessary he should, where none were to hear but his God, who heareth the strongest desires, and accounts them the strongest cries; so Jonah cried with his whole heart.

By reason of mine affliction; distress, or straits with which he was encompasseth and close besieged; nor was there ever closer siege laid to any one, his body and mind both shut up, the one by the monstrous dungeon of the fish’s belly, and the other by the terrors of the Almighty.

Unto the Lord: it was in many respects fit Jonah should petition God, for he was committed by his special warrant, and none either had power or authority to deliver him but God.

He heard me: though Jonah say not how God did hear, in what particular, yet he knew both how and in what; the support of his person, the exercise of his reason, the workings of his heart toward God, and a hope or assurance that lie should be delivered, were part of the mercy God gave, and he prayed for.

Out of the belly of hell cried I; the grave, so Sheol; so it was as dark to Jonah, and had been as destructive too, if mercy had not prevented. This is doubled, to intimate both the prisoner’s earnestness, and the greatness of the mercy given to one that was as shut up in the grave.

Thou heardest my yoke; of his soul, whilst he was in that dismal dungeon; as above.

Verse 3

For: this introduceth the account of his distress, mentioned Jonah 2:2.

Thou, the Almighty, offended by my frowardness and obstinacy,

hadst cast me into the deep; though the mariners’ hands heaved me overboard, it was thy hand that did it, and pressed me sore. The deep; the bottom of the sea: by what follows it is probable Jonah was cast into the sea far from shore.

In the midst of the seas, or heart of the seas, but more literally and strictly in the midst of the seas, than that Ezekiel 27:4.

The floods; either the mighty rivers which run into that sea, or the floods, the mighty currents, which the rolling sea and winds with tide made.

All thy billows and thy waves passed over me; the surges of the sea, which explains what before he called the floods. Here is an elegant description of the violence and horror of the seas into which Jonah was cast, which tossed his body, and signified the terrors wherewith his soul was distressed from God’s immediate hand, as Psalms 42:7.

Thy waves: Jonah seeth God’s hand and sovereignty in all this, intimating that he prayed for what he knew his God could do for him.

Verse 4

Then: though this word with us ordinarily denoteth time, yet here it denoteth order and connexion; the Hebrew is And. I said, with myself, I thought in the midst of my fears and sufferings.

I am cast out of thy sight; cut off from all hope of life among men; rejected, forsaken, and as it were forgotten of my God, and left by this death to pass to a worse death. Thus he was racked with sense of present danger from God’s displeasure, and. is almost carried away with a despair of ever seeing the face of God again with comfort. much as Psalms 31:22; Lamentations 4:22.

Yet I will look again: his faith begins to recover itself; he will not, as despairing ones, any more look toward lost hopes, but with reviving hope he will hope against hope, and never yield to such despairs.

Towards thy holy temple; where the ark of the covenant, where the mercy-seat, where propitiatory sacrifices are offered, where is God’s high priest, types of the great Redeemer, Mediator, and Saviour, by whom sin is expiated, sinners pardoned, grace and favour communicated, where God commands the blessing, life for evermore; he will look and hope to appear in the material typical temple, and to find there grace dispositive for, as well as significative of, glory in the heavenly temple; he hopes for both.

Verse 5

The former part of this verse seems to be an ingeminating of what was said Jonah 2:3, and bears the self-same meaning and interpretation.

The waters; literally, the waters of the sea; metaphorically, afflictions; mystically, temptations; these last arising from his own guilt, and from the tokens of God’s displeasure against him in so unusual a manner.

Compassed me about, even to the soul; to the endangering his life, and were forerunners (as he apprehended) of worse miseries, the foretastes of an eternal damnation: it was a miracle of providence to preserve my life, it was no less wonder of free grace to save my soul.

The depth closed me round about; he was carried to the bottom of the sea, lay as in the deepest hole of the sea.

The weeds were wrapped about my head; not immediately, as some conjecture, by the fish pulling them from the bottom of the sea and swallowing them down, where they wrapped Jonah’s head; but mediately, when the fish swam amidst these: or rather it is a comparative speech; I was no more likely to escape drowning, than a man in the depth of the sea, wrapped up in, and held fast down by, the weeds in the bottom of the sea.

Verse 6

I went down, the fish carried him down,

to the bottoms of the mountains; as deep in the sea as are the bottoms of the mountains, or into those depths out of which might be supposed that mountains were thence drawn out by the roots; an elegant description of fathomless depths, whirlpools of the seas.

The earth with her bars was about me for ever; I seemed to be imprisoned where the bars that secured me were as great and durable as the rocks which they were made of.

Yet, notwithstanding all these insuperable difficulties, and my own fears,

hast thou brought up; by what was first my danger thou hast wonderfully secured me, what I thought should have been my grave was made a safety to me; by the fish Jonah is in due time fairly and safely set on shore.

My life; his life of nature; his life of comfort, and peace, and joy too.

From corruption, or the pit; a description of the stale of the dead, whose bodies turn to putrefaction and stench.

O Lord; O almighty and eternal Being, Lord and Sovereign over all.

My God; mine, saith Jonah, by particular choice, faith, and hope, whom I had served and should not have disobeyed, to whom I prayed, who hath pardoned, whom I will adore, obey, and love for ever.

Verse 7

When, so soon as, and so often as,

my soul fainted within me, my heart was perplexed with variety of fears, sorrows, temptations, and difficulties; whenever I did forecast, and devise what way I might likely escape out of this forlorn condition, I was dispirited, my heart sunk within me, Psalms 22:14; Psalms 42:4; and I had fainted if I had not remembered the mighty, faithful, wise, and gracious God, who could save me, and on whose mercy I relied, who had promised the best of two deliverances, the eternal, whatever he did with me as to the temporal deliverance.

I remembered the Lord, with faith and prayer, for it is not a bare recalling of God to his mind, but a recalling his mercy and promise to his mind.

And my prayer, made in the fish’s belly, in his prison more dismal than ever was that of Manasseh, came in unto thee; did enter the ears of the Lord, he heard and readily answered.

Into thine holy temple; typically the temple at Jerusalem, to which Jonah looked; but principally heaven, the temple of his glory, whence God gives the command for his delivery, orders the gaoler to set him safe on shore.

Verse 8

Whoever they are that do, as the heathen mariners, seek to, depend upon, and wait for help from idols, false gods, whoever choose them for their assistance, and worship them, do depend upon most false grounds, wait for most lying and deceiving objects; and this of the prophet is true of, and applicable to, all our creature dependencies, to all trust reposed in any but God himself; these dig to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water, Jeremiah 2:13.

Forsake; turn away from, and do really and practically forsake, God, as he leaves the east who goeth on to the west; trust in God and idols are as opposite as is the east to the west.

Their own mercy; the Lord, who is to all that seek him, and depend on him, the fountain of living waters, who is an eternal fountain of mercy, and flows forth freely to all that wait for him.

Verse 9

Jonah here doth intimate his adherence to God, his assurance that he should find God to be a. fountain of mercy to him, that God would hear his prayer.

I will sacrifice; in most solemn manner recognize the mercy I receive; I shall have just ground to do it, and I will certainly be just to the mercy of my God and do it. Who wait on gods that cannot deliver shall never have cause to sacrifice to them; if they do the thing, they do sacrilegiously rob God.

Unto thee; excluding all others, who shall have as little share in the praise as they had in the thing for which praise is offered.

With the voice of thanksgiving; including the heart also; for such is the sacrifice with which God is best pleased, Psalms 50:14,Psalms 50:23; Psalms 116:17; Hosea 14:2; Hebrews 13:15.

I will pay: vows are, when made, debts we owe to God, and must, as just debts, be paid.

That I have vowed: it is not said what it was he had vowed, probably it was a more obedient heart and deportment, likely he resolveth to go to Nineveh and preach what God commandeth him; he will perform his promise to the Lord in all things he did engage to do.

Salvation; power to save, and actual deliverance from all dangers, in all distresses: when none of the gods the marine is invoked, neither any one apart nor yet all together, could quiet the tempest, and save from the danger of the sea, Jonah’s God could do both, he could by his own single power deliver Jonah out of the belly of hell.

Is of the Lord; he only can save, none else can as he can, Psalms 3:8; Psalms 68:20.

Verse 10

And, or, as the particle is sometimes rendered,

Then, i.e. after Jonah had prayed, and acted his faith, though in the whale’s belly.

The Lord, who made heaven and earth, and commandeth both, who is God of salvation.

Spake; commanded, signified it to be his pleasure; as the same word prepared the fish, and brought it to give attendance to receive the prisoner, so now it doth discharge the keeper, and requires him to set his prisoner at liberty.

Unto the fish: though fishes are destitute of reason, and understand not as man, yet they have ears to hear their Creator, and readily obey.

It vomited out Jonah; it presently obeys the word, it could no longer keep Jonah a prisoner.

On the dry land: the command required this, nor could it be a deliverance without this; had he been cast out of the whale’s belly any where else in the sea he had been drowned, but now that which was his danger shall be his safety, a ship now to land him which before was like to be his grave. The Scripture doth not say where he was thus set on shore, but considering he was to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to them, it is a very obvious conjecture that any man might make, that the whale set Jonah on shore in some place of the Syrian shore nearest to Nineveh; and on view of the charts any indifferent geographer would conjecture that it was some where on the bay or gulf of Lajazzo, anciently the Sinus Issicus, or somewhat near to Alexandette, as the French, or Scanderoon, as the Turks call it, whence, though a long, yet by the maps appears to be the straightest, journey to Nineveh. As for some who conjecture it was on the Euxine Sea, they consider not the strait passage of the Propontis, nor the length of one thousand six hundred miles from Joppa to that part of the Euxine which is next to Nineveh, nor the length and difficulty of the passage thence by land to Nineveh: but he that said Jonah was landed on Nineveh’s shore was much wider out in his guess, and never considered that Nineveh was built on Tigris some hundreds of miles by land from Joppa, and if the fish brought him thither, it was by a compass of many thousand miles, which would require some months to run over, besides that the fish would be too great to swim up the river. Their conjecture biddeth fairest who confine it to some places of the Syrian sea, and not far from Scanderoon.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jonah 2". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.